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SMNYC Debates: TO AI, OR NOT TO AI?

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On Monday, May 20, at Streaming Media NYC, two lively debates on the topic of AI in Media and Entertainment showcased leading industry figures. The first, “AI: Boon Or Bubble?” examined the ways that AI has entered every sector of the media, business, and technology worlds, and it explored how much of AI’s insurgency is a fad, and how much of it is the actual future of streaming. The second, “The Real Value Of Artificial Intelligence,” explored the fearmongering around the idea that “AI is coming for our jobs,” and focused on how AI/ML might make workflows more efficient and effective, grow or refine reach, and help to boost bottom lines.

AI: Boon or Bubble?

Cynthia Nelson, Founder & Managing Partner, Luminacion, moderated “AI: Boon Or Bubble?”, with participants Braden Storm Blacker, CEO, CHOZEN, Karissa Price, CMO, Dragonfruit.ai, Steven Ship, CEO, Creative Intell, Liz Blacker, EVP, Strategy & Business Development, Sabio, Inc., and Robert Tercek, CEO, General Creativity and Host of The Futurists Podcast.

Nelson began by asking the group what they thought the most intense debate over AI currently is in Media and Entertainment. Tercek brought up the pressing legal issues of copyright in AI, arguing that present copyright protections are inadequate to address questions of authorship in AI, and the nuanced issues that can arise when considering that copyright laws generally only protect specific works, but the not the original styles of creators. Steve Ship highlighted that AI laws are currently state-by-state focused within the U.S., and he cited the recent Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act (ELVIS Act), signed into law by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in March 2024, with the stated purpose to protect musicians from unauthorized usage by AI. However, legal protections such as this remain few and far between, and for the most part, existing copyright laws are inadequate to address the complexities of AI.

Nelson asked the group to discuss some of the most contentious issues with AI, and Karissa Price of Dragonfruit.ai brought up the biometric data privacy law in Illinois, which, like Tennessee’s ELVIS Act, is one of the few strong state laws to protect consumers against privacy violations, especially in retail media, with its increasingly sophisticated ways that shopper behaviors are being tracked on-site at major retailers such as Walmart. Tercek of General Creativity emphasized that government legal protections remain lax due to lobbying by Big Tech, which he said spends more on AI than major Media and Entertainment entities due to companies such as Microsoft wanting to overtake the information dominance of Google, and he cited Microsoft’s Copilot as a method to gather a substantial amount of personal information from users through sophisticated AI-driven personalization that is not always transparent to users.

On the creative side, Braden Storm Blacker of CHOZEN spoke of the ways that AI can use predictive analysis for the performance of YouTube videos, with major creators such as Mr. Beast generating view stats that can be used for predictive models. He said that only a handful of creators are top trending at any given time on YouTube, and in order to stand out, good content is not enough and an AI-optimized approach to strategy is essential.   

The Real Value of AI

The second AI debate, “The Real Value Of Artificial Intelligence,” was moderated by Curt Doty, Founder, RealmIQ, with participants Guy Bisson, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Ampere Analysis, Karissa Price, CMO, Dragonfruit.ai, Robert Tercek, CEO, General Creativity and Host of the Futurists Podcast, and Peter Csathy, Founder & Chairman, Creative Media.

The four participants were split into two groups with each group member debating one another. Doty said the current widespread perceptions of AI are split between a fatalistic mindset (“adopt AI and die”) and a more positive one (“adopt AI and thrive”). Tercek argued that adopting AI to thrive is inevitable, with overall media and entertainment industry revenue flattening, which will lead to the continued ascent of generative AI. Csathy said that a major issue remains that licensing schemes cannot keep pace with tech innovations and that it is important to approach the situation from a more rational than reactive viewpoint. Price is particularly interested in the need for a sense of purpose in jobs, and she said that the average person only truly works three hours a day, which is largely fueled by a disenfranchisement from meaningful work. This is only heightened by the increase in AI leading to a sense that many jobs will be eliminated by it. Bisson, however, argued that, at least in Hollywood’s case, no jobs have been lost to AI, and that the larger factor at play is the inevitable threat to any jobs that rely on old tech, meaning adaptability is key.  

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